Vice IPO: 'We would be stupid if we didn't see what the market will pay'

Shane Smith

Wikimedia Commons

Vice Media co-founder and CEO Shane Smith.

It sounds like youth-focused media company Vice is edging ever closer to an IPO.

Vice Media co-founder and CEO Shane Smith appeared on Tuesday (June 9) at advertising company WPP's annual general meeting in London. WPP became a minority Vice shareholder in 2011, investing a "high eight-figure" sum.

WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell asked Smith outright: "Are you going to go public?"Advertisement

Smith first responded: "Uhhh ... I'd have to upgrade my wardrobe."

As the laughs from the audience died down, Smith outlined Vice's options:

1) It can stay "fiercely independent." But the company has shareholders - WPP, 21st Century Fox, A&E Television Networks, and others - who may want to "dip their beak" and cash out at some point.

2) It can sell. But Smith said nobody would really be in the market to buy the company for the "north of $6-7 billion" he thinks the company is worth.

3) Or it can IPO. That too comes with challenges - "Right now the markets are frothy. No-one has seen a media company go public, with $1 billion revenue, and hockey stick growth [for some time.] We would be stupid if we didn't see what the market will pay," Smith said.So with all options considered it looks like, as Smith hinted to The Financial Times back in December, that an IPO could really be on the cards this year.Advertisement

Smith believes investors should be bullish about Vice: it has a reported $1 billion revenue run-rate (and the reach of the branded internet properties that go with that); a partnership with Time Warner (which Sorrell said has a $400 million production budget for news TV programming); a magazine; and other content platforms such as its YouTube channels.

"I always used to say we are going to be the next MTV, CNN, and ESPN all rolled into one. But with the scale of the internet, we're going to be 10 times that scale," Smith added.

Last month, BuzzFeed, another youth-focused media company, said it was planning an IPO.Advertisement

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